16 May 1536 – George Boleyn, Sir Francis Weston, Sir Henry Norris, William Brereton and Mark Smeaton Prepare for Death

A portait of a man thought to be Sir Francis Weston.
A portait of a man thought to be Sir Francis Weston.

On this day in 1536, the five men condemned to death for high treason prepared for their executions, which were scheduled for the following day.

Sir William Kingston wrote to Thomas Cromwell on 16th May regarding preparations for the building of the scaffold for Anne Boleyn’s execution and mentioning that the men were waiting to make their last confessions to “Doctor Allryge”.1 We can assume that he turned up as Kingston was waiting for him to come.

Kingston also wrote of how he had seen the King that day regarding “the petitions of my Lord of Rochford”. George had fretted the whole time he’d been in the Tower. He wasn’t afraid of dying, but he was afraid that his debtors would not be paid and that those who owed him money would end up getting into trouble if they had to pay the King instead. So consumed with worry was George that Sir William Kingston wrote to Cromwell twice, firstly saying “The said Lord desires to speak with you on a matter which touches his conscience”2 and then reiterating it in a second letter: “You must help my lord of Rochford’s conscience”.3 One person George was concerned about was a monk who, with Cromwell’s help, George had got promoted. The monk had paid George £100 and owed a further £100, but the Abbey had now been ‘suppressed’. The monk had no way of paying George back and George was worried that the Crown would demand the payment. Kingston begged Cromwell to step in and help George. We do not know if Cromwell ever visited George, but Kingston managed to speak to the King.

As Clare Cherry4 points out, George had good reason to worry about those who owed him money. Fast forward to 1538 and George Brown, Archbishop of Dublin, writes to Thomas Cromwell asking to be released of his debt of £400 sterling, which he had owed Lord Rochford.5 Fortunately for Brown, his debt was discharged.

In preparation for his death, Sir Francis Weston wrote a letter of farewell to his parents to send with a list of his debts:

“Father and mother and wife, I shall humbly desire you, for the salvation of my soul, to discharge me of this bill, and for to forgive me of all the offences that I have done to you, and in especial to my wife, which I desire for the love of God to forgive me, and to pray for me: for I believe prayer will do me good. God’s blessing have my children and mine.
By me, a great offender to God.”6

I find it moving to read the words of a man so close to death for crimes which, I believe, he did not commit.

Here is the list of debts, taken from Letters and Papers, which Weston sent to his parents:

“Debts owing by Sir Francis Weston at the time of his death, “as more plainly appeareth by a bill of the particulars written with his own hand.”
Creditors:—My cousin Dyngley with my father, John Horseman, Barnarde my father’s cook, Mr. Harve, Farfax, John Rutter, Wyngfyld, Browne the draper, Domyngo, Genenes (Jennings?), the page of the chamber, Peter Hoseer, Hocrofte, my lord of Wiltshire, William Horant, Pope, Bradbe the broderer, Brydges my tailor, Parson Robynson, “a poor woman that Hannesley of the tennis play had married for balls I cannot tell how much,” Cornelius the goldsmith, Harde Derman at the gate, Henry Semer, Mr. Bryan, the King for 40l. and 50 mks., Mr. Locke, Henry Parcar, page, Thomas Dyer, Sir William Peccarynge, William the broderer for 35l., “whereon he has a gown, a coat, and a doublet of cloth of gold,” my sadler, George Node, my shoemaker, Ambrose Barcar, Codale at Greenwich, Crester my barber, Richard Gresscham, Percake of the stable, Chr. Melyner, Askewe in Watlyngstrete, my lady Mosgrave 50l. whereon she has plate of mine, Jocelyne that was Mr. Norreys servant, John Norres, Secheper that playeth at the dice, Temple the fletcher, the King’s broderer. Total, 925l. 7s. 2d.”7

Notes and Sources

  1. LP x. 890
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid., 902
  4. Clare Cherry, unpublished manuscript on George Boleyn
  5. The letter can be read in State Papers: King Henry the Eighth; Part III. Continued, p11
  6. LP x. 869
  7. Ibid.

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13 thoughts on “16 May 1536 – George Boleyn, Sir Francis Weston, Sir Henry Norris, William Brereton and Mark Smeaton Prepare for Death”
  1. Interesting, and sad; Weston does seem have liked his clothes, doesn’t he? I wonder about the monk whom George got promoted — I don’t suppose there’s any record of how that story turned out in the end. Would that argue against George’s “Lutheranism” or would connections (or self-interest) have trumped any Protestant objection to abbeys? Or could the monk have had his own reformist tendencies, perhaps, which George wished to encourage?

  2. I promised myself I wouldn’t get upset this year and I’ve failed miserably.
    Henry wasn’t prepared to ease George’s conscience, because he did later try and enforce the debts owed to George. He wasn’t prepared to give some comfort to a man who was about to die on trumped up charges.

    1. To think that George was going to die, but he was concerned about debtors and monies owed! These poor people condemned to death were very noble in their last thoughts and actions, more than I can say for the proper nobility!

  3. I wonder why Francis Weston did not protest his innocence to his parents and , particularly, his wife who more than likely believed the accusations against him.

      1. Yes, that makes sense, Claire. It didn’t strike me that his letter would have been read.

        1. Mary/Claire,Did’nt Kingston write most all the letters ,and send them too Cromwell,then the King??I myself am trying not too get upset, as we all no what is about to happen!! And Queen Anne ,awaits her fate aswell in ,The Tower Of Death, she to will follow in there foot steps. SAD SAD Baroness x

  4. It seems that noble behavior was modeled by those on the scaffold, not by the Royal, nor the Royals-Hanger-On’s.

  5. What a simple letter from Francis Weston to his family. I think this letter pains me more than anything else. Poor, poor man.

  6. I hope Francis Westons wife believed in his innocence and William Breretons to if he was married that is, I believe Lady Rochford appealed to the King for mercy for her husband which was a nice wifely gesture to make considering how she’s painted as an evil woman who betrayed him and his sister, the court must have been a hot bed of gossip and terror, i wonder if their family’s witnessed their executions, there’s no record of them doing so, how dreadful they were all sacrificed just to get rid of the Queen.

  7. I own Moresby Hall which was owned by Francis Westons heiress wife Anne Pickering. We have been told that her mother and Anne Pickering offered Henry a sizeable sum of money to pardon Francis Weston which was refused. The other bizarre connection for me is that I also attended Brereton Hall boarding school in 1966 at Cheshire owned by the Brereton family from Tudor times. It seems strange to have that connection to both families without being related in any way. Seems meaningful somehow. I have named two of our guest rooms Brereton and Smeaton and our new conference room The Weston room.

  8. The portrait thought to be Weston is actually Mark Smeaton, in my opinion. It is also my opinion that he confessed because he was tricked. He was privy to too much information and they had to get rid of him. Please don’t publish this because I have no way to prove this. I just wanted to share this with you because I know that portrait is him.

    1. But why do you think the portrait thought to be Weston is Smeaton? It bears the Weston arms: Ermine, on a chief azure 5 bezants, with the inscription “Weston Esq. of Sutton, Surrey”.

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